The Infringement on the Freedom of Religion and Belief of a Yoga Practitioner in Russia

The Absurdity of the Yarovaya Law

The practice of Freedom of Religion and Belief in Russia has recently taken a turn towards a lack of respect of practitioners of a spiritual faith. The recent Yarovaya Law (2016) in Russia has greatly increased the regulation of the dissemination of information pertaining to a religious belief by a religious association, or private practitioner, to non-members for the purpose of recruitment. A component of this law pertains to the limiting of the expression of religious belief and freedom of speech and is proving to be implemented in a highly subjective manner.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” (UN Declaration of Human Rights).

Therefore, an example of the absurdity of the implementation of the Yarovaya law is currently being witnessed in the case of Dmity Ugay, a yoga teacher who is accused of conducting supposedly illegal missionary activity at a festival where he was giving a presentation on the philosophy and ethics of yoga. Although Russian authorities insist that Ugay was propagating his beliefs in order to gain membership in a yoga ‘cult’, Ugay and spectators, deny vehemently that this was the case. He is, however, facing the possibility of a fine for discussing the philosophy of yoga. The Moscow Times quoted Ugay saying, “If I’m convicted, then it’s clear that the mere act of speaking publicly will be enough to find a person guilty, and they’ll be able to prosecute anyone just for practicing yoga." 


For more information on this case, follow the links below: